Counting Cats in Zanzibar Rotating Header Image

About the Animals …

This thought just passed through the space between my ears:

As for “animal rights” … what animals have is a claim upon us. It is mediated by our hearts and our consciences, and derives from our faculties of sympathy and empathy with reasoning urged by these faculties as another factor.

The animals’ claim upon us comes from our own nature as human beings.


  1. Julie near Chicago says:

    More succinctly: If there were no human beings, animals could have no rights.

    (In a sense even deeper than the obvious, which is that humans are the only thing round that can ask whether animals have rights. I mean, the concept “rights” implies the existence of humans. Of course, if Paul’s 100′ round blob of a philosopher comes around we may have to re-think the issue.)

  2. John Galt says:

    Not sure I’d go as far as saying animals have a ‘claim’ on us, any more than we have a claim on them. Certainly as far as the main domestic pets go. Dogs and cats have evolved a co-dependency with humans that goes back thousands and possibly even tens of thousands of years, but still, given the absence of humans they don’t wither-and-die, but go back to an analogue of their pre-domesticated existence we call feral.

    The dog has a different view of humans than the cat for instance in that to a dog all the humans in the household are members of the pack, with the owner being Alpha-male/female (unless you’ve got a really poorly trained dog who thinks he/she is the Alpha-male/female).

    The cat plays on a different set of emotions and knows how to play humans very well to have their needs met. This can be as direct as the right kind of plaintive meow! or as indirect as a look or a way of standing.

    From a needs perspective or domestic animals have come to a level of both medical and healthcare needs that is on a level with human needs, with expensive treatments being paid for to keep them healthy into old age, along with insurance to match.

    As times have changed, so our needs have changed. With the reduction of the rodent population in the house, the cat has no purpose in most modern homes. Equally, a dog is no longer a guard against intruders or predators, even it’s hunting ability is a bit more of an annoyance more than anything else (e.g. bounding wildly with flapping ears after rabbits).

    So mostly we have dogs and cats for companionship and feel that even the most bonkers dog or stiff-necked cat loves us humans, sometimes more honestly and reliably than our human partners.

    As for people who hurt or neglect animals, well bugger the RSPCA, just stick them in a hollowed-out wicker man and apply a match…

  3. Julie near Chicago says:

    Sigh … I tried to post a reply, and WordPress came back with “You’re commenting too quickly. Slow down.” Third time that’s happened today. Then it ate my reply. Which was roughly as follows:

    Sure, JG, as to “claims.” But that’s the way the thought occurred to me, and that’s the way y’all got it.

    You could say, “The animals’ ‘claims’ are all in our heads.”

    . . .

    But as far as I’m concerned, those claims should be honored.

    And what is the boundary of the claims? Humane treatment. If we kill, whether in hunting or slaughter, the killing should be as quick and painless as possible. And if we have undertaken to keep the animal as a pet, or as a farm animal to give us milk or eggs or wool or to be killed and eaten, then humane treatment includes seeing that it’s properly fed and cared for. And if we have undertaken the care of an animal, “humane treatment” includes a habitat in which the animal can be comfortable, as best we can tell.

    I hope that is satisfactory. The devil is always in the details — no exception for the “humane treatment” issue.

    Personally I can’t understand killing purely for sport, unless you’re putting your life on the line maybe — hunting a mountain lion with a slingshot, like climbing K2. Why not hunt with a camera? Surely that takes even more skill, and then you have the animal with you for the rest of your life.

    But I wouldn’t move to prevent sport hunting. And in fact I have one argument in favor of it, which is that everyone should have skill in providing himself with food if the problem should arise. For the good of our selves, and also of our species, knowledge of how to hunt successfully shouldn’t be allowed to die.

    However, by “sport hunting” I mean hunting where the point is the kill itself the hunt and the kill, with no interest in the resulting meat or fur — not where the intention is to provide nice fresh venison or whatever, even if the “thrill of the hunt” is part of the attraction. To me there’s something wrong with somebody who actually gets off on killing.

    Now we’ll see if WordPress still thinks I’m “commenting too quickly.” :(

  4. John Galt says:

    I suppose you could say that if we choose to bring a pet into our home, then we create a duty or obligation upon ourselves, but this is a personal matter of which the pet is not consciously a party.

    To the dog, we are the leader of the pack. To the moggy we are the feeder of the cat. :-)

    On the matter of hunting animals for sport, sure if you are going to kill it, skin it and cook it then good luck to you, but use a weapon that gives each animal a sporting chance. For example with fishing, I can catch more fish by pouring a packet of washing powder at the head of the stream than with a fishing rod, but this is both cruel (the fish die of asphyxia) and indiscriminate.

    At least with a rod-and-line I have to have a bit of talent and I’m more likely to catch greedy or stupid fish, so probably a Darwinian spur their, although the only ‘clever’ fish I ever met was a pike.

  5. John Galt says:

    WordPress also thinks I’m “commenting too quickly.”

    Fortunately with Google Chrome I can press “Back” and my prepared text is still there, so just hit submit and try again.

  6. Julie near Chicago says:

    I definitely get the humor of your joke, except whatever I’m missing onaccounta I don’t know what “moggy” means. :)

    I’ve never fished (except for Mom’s wedding ring that I dropped down the furnace duct and suchlike :(), but to me the problem with fishing is that once you’ve got your fish you have to clean it. Scales, bones, etc. Yuck. I never wanted to mess with whatever Dad and Grandpa hauled back from the woods, either. Once it’s nicely dressed, then give it to me. The pot part I can deal with.

    Mice…*sigh*…I don’t mind mice at all. I grew up with mice. (Farm, all that.) I like mice! Unfortunately, they simply don’t pay attention to either the rules of hygiene or the difference between meum and tuum. And those capture-and-release traps just lead to revolving-door syndrome. Humaneness dictates the old-fashioned spring trap.

    Speaking of pike, why not meet me in Northern Wisconsin, JG? They have terrific walleye in the lakes up there, and they’re a real treat lightly crumbed and fried. You catch and dress, and I’ll provide chef’s service. :>))

  7. JuliaM says:

    “However, by “sport hunting” I mean hunting where the point is the kill itself the hunt and the kill, with no interest in the resulting meat or fur…”

    Most trophy hunts in Africa are quick to trumpet their ‘environmental’ credentials by assuring you nothing’s wasted.

    ‘Moggy’ = English term for cat of indeterminate breed.

  8. Julie near Chicago says:

    Ah! Thanks, Julia. Our cats are definitely moggies, then. Well, perhaps more to the point, I frankly think they are the results of *ssssshhhhh* miscegenation. So much easier with my sweet Lucy; her, we can simply identify as a mutt.

    I wonder if I’m commenting too quickly again.

  9. RAB says:

    I’ve had that wordpress message a few times too, and I have no idea what it’s supposed to mean. I type at about 50wpm but that’s hardly the speed of light is it? It always brings this to mind…

    We’ve had dogs and cats and John is right, cats are basically selfish what’s in it for me creatures. One of our cats reckoned it was getting a better deal from the little old lady down the road and eventually pissed off and stayed there.

    So I prefer dogs on the whole. We have holidayed in France for the last three years entirely because we can take the bonkers dog with us. She absolutely makes the holiday and we make friends because of her too. French dog lovers come over to you and talk about her, give her a stroke etc and you end up having a beer with them and a good chat.

    Well my farmer cousins have always gone Fox hunting, and I’m fine with that. Foxes are vermin and will kill for the fun of it, so it’s pest control as far as I am concerned. Besides there is no quicker death than being torn to bit by a pack of hounds, a damn sight quicker and more certain than shooting them.

  10. JuliaM says:

    Actually, RAB, under the right conditions, ALL animals are capable of ‘killing for the fun of it’ (or at least, what humans judge such behaviour to be).

    And foxes are rarely ‘torn apart’ as the antis claim – the lead hound usually breaks the fox’s neck.

  11. RRS says:

    Julie -

    You have hit upon one of my favored examples as to the point that **all** rights are based on “obligations.”

    Obligations being the compound of those individual senses of “oughtness.” (ought to & ought not)

    Animal rights are the obligations of humans in their relationships with animals.

    Children’s rights are the obligations of adults in their relationships with children.

    Obligations (like those Commandments which memorialized some of them) are both positive and negative (constraints on conduct).

    As to “claim,” I would point out that we do indeed “claim” a hierarchal position to hold the existence of some animals (and other living things) as subordinate to our existence as food, etc. But, we (a substantial portion of “us”) sense an obligation of “humane” conduct even in that relationship.

    But all rights are grounded on obligations; many of the major ones being those that require constraints on conduct by others.

  12. Julie near Chicago says:

    Julia: Practice. It’s a survival skill.

    Maybe? –Just a thought. Also, do strict herbivores kill for sport? Not arguing; asking, because I don’t know. I didn’t know that about the foxes, either. It comes from leading a sheltered life. Now having done time IN Chicago, I do know a little about the quaint local customs, such as icing people when they cross your gang (or City Hall, the Weather types, and the Nation of Islam — which are all the same thing), and stopping people on dark nights and relieving them of their valuables.

    . . .

    Just got The Message again. I don’t think it’s anything we’re doing. I think WordPress has come down with a bug. Or, it might be reacting to a bug in the server’s timing or programming. ???

  13. John Galt says:

    “Do strict herbivores kill for sport?”

    I know that bull elephants will kill predators if they get the chance, but is this because of self-preservation or because an opportunity arises and they can?

    This might best be described as opportunistic killing, but hardly sport. It’s not like the heffalump can nail the carcass to his home tree…

  14. Julie near Chicago says:

    Well, I have no intention of crossing a bull elephant (nor a bull either, come to that), nor a hippo, etc., etc., etc.

    “Kill for sport”–I was really thinking of blood-lust, I suppose. Do non-predators get into a state where they kill for the “enjoyment” of the act?

    They say that a human who never hurt a fly can get into such a state. I always took it for granted that that’s true. (I mean, in a situation where the person isn’t himself at any particular physical risk, as in combat or being jumped for some reason.) Anybody know otherwise? I do know that I can get into a shaking rage (I get mad, but into a shaking rage not so much), but never to the point of wanting to kill! Nor even to injure seriously.

    I did once get sufficiently annoyed with my Honey to throw my Bic lighter at “him,” but the floor was there and made a useful surrogate. :>)) I do not count this as approaching blood-lust.

  15. Lynne says:

    My girl practices her right to get wet at every available opportunity.

    Dunno about killer instincts but she certainly has a killer personality.

  16. Julie near Chicago says:

    Now this is interesting. When I clicked “Submit” for my last above, I got the message “Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!” Did not! But on checking in a whole fresh tab, I see that it did take the posting. Therefore WP (probably) is definitely buggy, sending out msgs all on its own, not checking its records properly, etc. Perhaps it should lie in a cool dark room for awhile and resolve to live a better, purer life.

    :( :)

    PS. Now I am “posting too quickly” again….

  17. Julie near Chicago says:

    Ah, the luscious Miss Ruby if I am not mistaken. Looks, brains, dogality: Killer indeed. She toys with the hearts of humans as if they were playmates, but I’ll bet she only tosses them aside when the Chef’s Special shows up in the vicinity.

    (I wonder if I can post this.)

  18. Julie near Chicago says:


    Feelin’ Groovy! Now there’s one I always did like a lot. I don’t think I ever heard this “Harpers Bizarre” *ee-e-eww!* version, nor of the group either. Like it way better than S&G, even with the Brubeck band. Thanks!

  19. Kevin B says:

    The two biggest mankillers in Africa, (in terms of numbers), are the hippo and the Cape buffalo. Both strict herbivores.

    Oh, and Mark Wadsworth used to have a regular round up of European cow attacks.

    Whether these attacks can be described sport…

  20. John Galt says:

    I’ve seen videos of a hippo chasing after some poor benighted African local and although probably not technically bloodlust, the hippo certainly looks to be enjoying himself.

    At what point trampling someone ceases to be a defense mechanism and becomes sport I’m not so sure.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: